The FBHVC monthly report

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The Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs represents our interests nationally, fighting for those who enjoy using their Classic Cars.

Robin Astle, our Club's FBHVC representative gives a monthly report on what's going on.

Robin Astle

November 2018

by Robin Astle.

From FBHVC 2018 Newsletter No 5

Editorial by Geoff Lancaster

I spend a good proportion of my working days talking to journalists. This month this has involved very large quantities of alcohol! No change there then, I hear you say. But in this case the alcohol in question is not the sort you would want to ingest… not even in the meagre quantities deemed safe by our caring Government. This month’s subject of choice has been Ethanol, or more strictly Bioethanol, the renewable fuel derived from distilling ethyl alcohol from agricultural crops such as sugar (cane and beet) and cereals, usually low-grade feed wheat and maize.

At present in this country around 5% bioethanol is blended with petrol to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. The proportions are higher in some parts of Europe… up to 10%, the maximum deemed technically appropriate by European automotive manufacturers. That is on modern cars, with intelligent feedback fuel injection systems and with components specifically chosen as resistant to corrosion from either the alcohol itself or the water that is hygroscopically attracted.

The reason that this long running story has suddenly come to the fore is a very recent Government consultation about which the Federation has made a detailed submission on your behalf. The Government is keen to have the petrochemical industry move up to the technically permitted limit of 10% bioethanol in road transport petroleum but it is conscious that by doing so they may deprive a large section of the population driving older cars a suitable fuel to use safely and reliably. We are not only talking here about historic vehicles, although these would be affected, the Government chief concern is the voters who rely on affordable, older cars. A group they perceive, rightly or wrongly as nobody has the data, as ‘poor’. You see the political dilemma they face.

Accordingly, they propose to introduce a ‘protection grade’ coincident with the introduction of E10, which will be effectively the retention of the current E5. The consultation asks for opinions as to whether this 5% should be added to Regular (95 RON) or Super (97 RON). The Federation surveyed a large number of its members who voted very strongly for the 97 option. The RAC Foundation, presumably speaking on behalf of the so-called ‘poor’ motorists, have gone for the 95 option.

Then only days after the publication of the consultation the owners of the largest bioethanol manufacturing facility in the country suddenly announced its closure. On the face of it this seemed counter intuitive. Why would they leave the market just as the Government was applying pressure to double their sales? The answer lies in the world of fluctuating global commodity markets. This UK plant relied on feed wheat for which prices currently are relatively high. Relative to, in particular, sugar, the other principle feedstock for alcohol production. Unsurprisingly, Brazil, the world’s largest producer at nearly three quarters of a billion tonnes annually, is the price leader and our Government chooses to apply tariff intervention at a lower level than nearly every EU country making the UK a preferred market for imports. It remains to be seen when E10 comes to the forecourt but when it does it will be a benefit to Brazilian imports rather than to British farmers.

Skills Development & Engagement of Young People by Karl Carter

Trailblazer & Heritage Skills Academy

Well, it has taken two years to get the Trailblazer Apprenticeship to fruition and I can finally announce that the Heritage Engineering Technician Apprenticeship Scheme is now fully approved by the Institute of Apprenticeships. The final stage was the publication of the standard which was early September and the reference number for the scheme is ST0571 for anybody that needs the details from the Institute of Apprenticeships website.

The funding is also approved at £26,000 which is almost at the maximum level and this factor will be crucial in the success of the scheme.

On the classic car side, the Heritage Skills Academy that operates from our unit at Bicester Heritage has seen a significant increase in interest from both restorers and those wishing to become an apprentice. Light Vehicle (modern) apprenticeships are funded at £18,000 which was the same as the old classic vehicle restoration course that has been running for four years and this has restricted the uptake on the classic course as colleges have prioritised the light vehicle as it is easier to teach and needs less hours to complete.

The new Heritage Engineering Apprenticeship will set new standards in skills taught that are much higher than the old course which will require more hours both in the classroom and in the workshop, so it is good news that the funding is available to the training providers to deliver these new skills. Our expectations are that the apprentices who qualify as Heritage Skills Technicians will have all the skills necessary to get employment in any classic vehicle restoration business.

When we set up the unit at Bicester Heritage and had the Heritage Skills Academy as our first tenant we did not foresee the rapid growth in the number of students. Today we already have 30 apprentices signed up to the scheme, but by the middle of next year we can expect that number to increase to 100. With 12 students on each block release course and a block being 9 weeks per year the maximum we can put through the existing facilities is 60 trainees. With the popularity of Bicester Heritage there are no units vacant and a waiting list of businesses wanting to move in. In addition, the development of the site on new areas that have not previously been developed has been delayed by the planners who are trying to manage the development of this part of Oxfordshire which is already one of the biggest developments in Europe. We clearly do not want to turn down the opportunity to train more apprentices, or to move off the Bicester site but it is going to be a challenge to find a solution, so watch this space.

The Heritage Engineering Technician standard was written not just for classic vehicles, but included for Historic Aviation, Historic Marine and Steam. Each of these sectors can now adopt the standard, get the same funding and have a bespoke course for their specific needs. These sectors are nowhere near the size of classic vehicles but over the next three years we need to develop these areas or they will be lost. The Institute of Apprenticeships will apply the rule of use it or lose it at the three year review.

Despite FBHVC not normally getting too involved in these other sectors I will be trying to encourage them to take the standard forward. The Historic Aviation sector has stepped forward to see whether they can come together and make a course work for them. In early October we will be hosting a meeting of historic aviation specialists at Bicester Heritage to see whether we can come up with a credible proposal. We do know that the early engineering skills that are taught to the classic vehicle technicians could be applied to any of the four sectors and particularly to Historic Aviation where mechanical, electrical, coachwork and trim can all overlap.

Hopefully by the next newsletter I will be able to give you more information about the situation at Bicester Heritage and the development of the other heritage sectors as we move towards the overall aim of having up to 200 apprentices being trained with the skills to keep our vehicles on the road.



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